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Friday April 19th 2019

Travel – Los Angeles: Santa Monica & Venice 2


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Santa Monica Pier
Beside the seaside – Santa Monica Pier | Photograph: Shutterstock / Zarnell Photography

But, of course, this is the coast and you’ll naturally want to head straight to the seafront.

The Santa Monica Pier was 100 years old in 2009, but is looking a bit squeaky-clean after its 1990s renovation. Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) runs "clear to the ocean" or, at least, the pier’s blue and white entrance sign on Ocean Avenue, before heading back to the “other ocean” in Robert Zemeckis’ whimsical fantasy. Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) strolls on the pier explaining a peculiar brand of ethics to his son in Jason Reitman’s darkly funny Thank You For Smoking.

Beneath the Pier, undercover reporter Fletch (Chevy Chase) poses as a junkie to get a story in the 1985 comedy thriller; and Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) encourages awkward Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) to let rip with a manscream in 2009 bromance I Love You, Man.

One of the many Hitchcock references in 1995 cyberthriller The Net sees Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) attempting to meet up with fellow computer nerd Cyberbob on the pier, and evading the villain on the famous Looff Carousel in a sequence shamelessly lifted from/paying homage to the climax of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train.

The Looff Hippodrome, with its original carousel (which was apparently relocated to ‘Chicago’ for The Sting), is still charming, and you can waste time in the pier’s amusement arcade, where Justin Timberlake mimes along to The Killers in Southland Tales, Richard Kelly’s ambitiously bizarre, or bizarrely ambitious, follow up to Donnie Darko.

Chez Jay, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
Putting peanuts on the moon – Chez Jay, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica

You’re by the sea, so why not blow the budget on a full seafood feast at Chez Jay, 1657 Ocean Avenue, on the seafront half a block south of Santa Monica Pier. Looking like a wooden shack, this legendary celeb dive is another one of those places with a roll call of patrons and a list of anecdotes that can bring a travel guide to a grinding halt. Just checkout Chez Jay’s website.

One great story claims that astronaut Alan Shepard took one of Jay’s peanuts to the moon, and back. See it (the bar, not the peanut) in Curtis Hanson’s stylish 1990 thriller Bad Influence, with Rob Lowe and James Spader.

Chez Jay was more recently transformed into the 'Starboard Side' bar for Tom Ford's 2009 drama A Single Man, with Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

If you’re staying in Santa Monica, you have a choice of seafront hotels. Aaron Eckhart, in Thank You For Smoking, chooses the Viceroy Hotel, 1819 Ocean Avenue.

Georgian Hotel, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
Chili Palmer in art deco 'Miami' – Georgian Hotel, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica

When Chili Palmer (John Travolta) heads to 'Miami Beach' to retrieve his coat in Barry Sonnenfeld's Elmore Leonard adaptation, Get Shorty, that 'Florida' deco hotel is gorgeous 1933 landmark, the Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Avenue on the Santa Monica seafront. It's also where Martin Donovan and Lisa Kudrow stay in Don Roos’ sadly neglected 1998 black comedy The Opposite of Sex.

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